Game Design

Game Design

About

The Field
Game Design (GD) is the creation of interactive experiences for entertainment, educational, scientific, and other pursuits. These interactive experiences take various forms, including board games, card games, casino games, digital games, carnival and amusement experiences, augmented and virtual reality, and geocaching. GD draws upon multiple disciplines--art, programming, architecture, psychology, animation, business, and the humanities--and drives how we view devices built for person-technology interaction (e.g., touchscreens, motion capture). Crucially, GD provides a framework for understanding complex relationships between people, tools, human cognition, and the environment. 

The Department
The Digital Media & Design Department seeks to advance transdisciplinary teaching, learning, and research through the rigorous study and application of digital media and designs in art, creative writing, business, STEM, the humanities, and the social sciences. We lay a foundation of design fundamentals upon which our students build expert communication and collaboration skills for dynamic 21st-century work environments.

Unique to UConn is the blending of educational psychology, instructional design, visual and audio artistry, and industry game development into a single program. We work with the nationally-acclaimed Neag School of Education and UConn Educational Technology program to leverage UConn’s scholarly resources toward improved understanding of player-game-environment interactions and emerging technologies in, around, and outside the classroom. This gives our GD students the opportunity to engage with peers and faculty from across the university (as well as partner institutions) in pursuit of developing cutting-edge instructional games.

Student Preparation
Our approach to teaching and research is inclusive and collaborative. We build interactive experiences for people, websites, apps, rides, toys, museums, classrooms, and more. For students, this translates to working alongside faculty and other design experts to gain critical perspectives, skills, and the hands-on experience required for successful making. Introductory courses cover the history and content of games as well as modern approaches to game theory and mechanics. Advanced courses and graduate seminars foster personalized exploration within the field of GD. This includ
  • Instructional Game Design 
  • Game-Based Teaching and Learning  
  • Storytelling
  • Emerging Interactive Interfaces/Techniques
  • Digital Culture and Humanities
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Economic and Statistical Modeling 
  • Psychological Principles for:
    • Improved Design 
    • Motivation
    • Education 
    • Character Design
To further strengthen students’ interdisciplinary perspectives and skills, the GD program fosters development of multiple core competencies and culminates with a senior thesis project through which students synthesize course content, individual interests, and careers goals. Our student practica organize individuals into teams so they can pursue grant-funded research projects alongside world-class research faculty.

Current research areas include:
  • Healthcare
  • Interactive Exhibits
  • Museum and Library Technologies
  • Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Apps
  • Game-Based Teaching and Learning
  • Musical Entertainment
  • Academic Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Scholarly Communication

University Impact
Play is a fundamental mechanic of humanity. That’s why UConn DMD treats games research and analysis as a critical part of understanding ourselves. 

More specifically, we seek to help students deconstruct complex, interactive systems so they can effectively design original cultural works and pioneer novel methods of person-person and person-technology interaction. We prepare them to innovate new modes of communication, produce economic and social value, create software, and test media. With facilitation by expert faculty, they are encouraged to blend science, art, and game mechanics around particular areas of interest and create a meaningful, positive, lasting impact on the world. 

UConn GD graduates have obtained employment in the game industry, often within six months of degree completion. This includes the following positions:
  • 3D Character Artist
  • Technical Artist
  • Gameplay Programmer
  • Game Designer

Other potential career paths include
  • User Experience Designer
  • Producer
  • VFX Artist
  • Cinematic Designer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Instructional Designer

Student Life


Gaming Club 
The UConn Gaming Club focuses on competitive esports and gaming. Over the last three years, the university has had teams enter into esports competitions including CS: GO, League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm. In each case, our teams have reached the semi-finals and, in 2016, competed in a national Heroes of the Storm bout with the event broadcast live on ESPN (all expenses paid).

We have an active membership of 300+ students and partner with Twitch TV on the UConn campus (with opportunities for students to broadcast their own streams on the club channel). Additionally, the UConn Gaming Club hosts a regional High School Gaming Championship each year, bringing hundreds of guests to Storrs in a live event coordinated with TESPA.

Game Development Club
The Game Development Club is a small work-group with an enrollment of approximately 15 students. They perform ongoing game development and are responsible for implementing the global game jam each year.

Facilities


Virtual Reality Laboratory 
As part of our ongoing research into the development of interactive games and applications for Virtual and Mixed-Reality software, UConn DMD has constructed a full-sized virtual reality play space and lab. The lab is equipped with an observation window, VR ready PC, four HTC Vive headsets, two Oculus Rift developer headsets (v2), two Leap Motion hand controllers, Arduinos that connect via plugin to the Unity3d development.

Usability and Research Lab
As part of the game development process, we must evaluate software through user testing. The Usability and Research Lab is a multi-purpose observation and play room designed for 1-4 subjects at a time. The room itself will be equipped with gaming consoles, three cameras for recording, and a library of games. This facility is valuable for the product iteration and feedback gathering processes of software development, allowing for systematic testing of usability, marketing, player experience, and bug fixing. The completed facility is slated to open in January 2019.

Audio Recording Lab
UConn DMD is equipped with an audio recording lab. This lab is insulated and ready to develop music, record voice over, and create Foley sound effects suitable for professional game audio. The lab has a computer, instruments, and high-quality microphones and cables.

Optitrack Body Motion Capture Studio
The Optitrack body motion system is a powerful industry level tool to capture body animations of humanoids and puppets. This tool is a huge boon to developing engaging games with a very simple importing process into game development software.

Miscellaneous Hardware
The Digital Media and Design department has high-resolution cameras for photogrammetry scanning, Cintiqs, Arduinos, 3D printers, game consoles, controllers, Kinects, and Leap Motion controllers; all of which aid students in prototyping unique interaction methods to make cutting-edge games.

Curriculum

Introduction to Digital Game Design

DMD 2500

Introduction to the principles of game design and development. History of the industry, story and game mechanics. 

3D Virtual World & Simulations

DMD 2530

Fundamentals of game mechanics. Current virtual worlds, basic scripting and modeling techniques, and the principles of role-playing video games. 

Introduction to Game Scripting

DMD 2542

Fundamentals of gameplay scripting utilizing a current game engine. Numbers, strings, assignment, loops, functions, arrays, and available engine commands. 

Game Production

DMD 2550

Practical investigation into the successful management of video game projects. Budgets, asset management plans, and risk evaluation of game development options. Relationship and team management, business aspects of the video game industry, and development of a video game project. 

Wearable Electronics and Interactive Objects

DMD 3420

Provides a basic understanding of electronics, key components, function, construction, and project design for wearable electronics and interactive objects. Concepts learned will form the core for students to continue to proactively explore and experiment with wearable electronics and interactive objects beyond the classroom. 

Interactive Storytelling

DMD 3522

A project-based exploration of the relationship of story, character and player in games. Students in this course will generate a short role-playing video game storyline.

Game Systems Design

DMD 3530

Creation of unique or refined interfaces within the context of websites or computer software. Examination of various usability aspects of interaction to give a broad overview of critical topics within cultural requirements of interfaces, interface design, and evaluation. 

Multiplayer Game Development

DMD 3540

Examination an array of gameplay interactions and how different types of interactions create a different experience for players. Students create a multiplayer map based in a relevant game engine that adheres or modifies the core mechanics to create a new game experience. 

Advanced Digital Game Design and Development

DMD 3560

Advanced study and application of digital game design and development, programming, 3D game environments, game testing, human computer interaction, quality assurance, publishing. 

Disruptive Technologies

DMD 4536

Exploration of emerging interactive technologies, creating rapid fire prototypes utilizing experimental hardware and software. These skills enable students to develop interactive installations and unique gameplay scenarios. 

Advanced Game Scripting

DMD 4545

Foundational knowledge on how to develop artificial intelligence models for games and gameplay scripting within a commercial game engine.